“Skiing like a girl” never looked so good as it did this weekend at The Lake Louise Big Mountain Challenge. All the competitors: skiers, snowboarders, girls and guys alike, put on a good show. But it was the women’s ski category that people couldn’t stop talking about afterwards.
Fall-line skiing, stomps with potential consequences and fast fluid skiing characterized the ladies’ field.
At the end of the weekend, it was Kylie Sivell’s consistently aggressive skiing that placed her atop the podium. And I think it’s safe to say that Whistler’s Ellie Dalton had the best crash of the whole weekend, flashing the upper part of the course with a couple solid airs before running it out straight through the second half. Unfortunately, her speed through the chop got the better of her and, not unlike a cat being tossed out the window, she got bucked violently into a spectacularly splayed out cartwheel a few metres above the finish line. She took her knees off her head, but was lucky enough to ski away from the incident and was seen givin’r on the dancefloor later that evening.
For the snowboarders, Lake Louise’s own Michelle Locke took the title for the second year in a row. With a lot of the other girls taking significant falls, Michelle was able to lock it down with smart, half-throttle riding that kept her on her feet.
On the day of the finals, the snowboarders had to deal with some of the worst light conditions of the weekend, with the competitors being sent between incoming patches of rolling fog.
For the men, Ruari Macfarlane wasn’t able to repeat his victory from last year, which paved the way for newcomer Mikael Houde Poirier to claim the title. Revelstoke’s Seb Grondin took an uncompromised approach, sending a massive, off-axis backside 360 off a cliff at the top of the venue. The landing gear was definitely down and everyone agreed that he probably would have stuck it in better snow conditions, but it wasn’t quite meant to be and he ended up skidding out for a solid 70 metres before he finally came to a stop.
The kid was going for it.
Props to that.
A good chunk of last year’s ringers from the men’s skiing field were away at a Freeride tour qualifying event in Montana’s Moonlight Basin, so we saw some new faces on the podium this year. Foster Kennedy skied smooth, fast and smart into first place, but Cameron Smith almost chased him down with a huge 360 off the top of the venue and an air off the lookers left of ER-3 that was arguably the sendiest stomp of the entire weekend.
So once again, I find myself walking away from Lake Louise with my jaw agape and my expectations shattered into pieces. Their Big Mountain Challenge has become a staple in Rocky Mountain freeriding and I’m looking forward to coming back next year and seeing what the skiers and snowboarders have in store for us.
And maybe the guys will actually show up the girls next time.
Props to The Lake Louise Ski Area for making it happen and treating us judges like royalty.